New-look Charles S Roberts Awards aims to better reflect broadening definition of ‘wargames’

One of the longest-running awards honouring conflict-focused tabletop games has shaken up its categories again, in an ongoing attempt to leave behind a traditionally narrow definition of ‘wargame’.

This year’s Charles S Roberts Awards, which traces its history back to 1975, has removed mention of the word wargame from all but one of this year’s 20 categories, as well as splitting the awards into historical and design mechanic-focused segments and adding a specific award for the “best historical conflict simulation dealing primarily with a non-military conflict”.

Categories removed this year include Early Modern, Early 20th Century, Sci Fi or Fantasy and Expansion, replaced by Best World War I, Best Strategic, Best Operational, Best Tactical, and Best Political Social or Economic Game.

Up until last year the publicly-voted for CSR Awards were heavily focused on historical wargaming, but the accolades were rebranded in 2023 to focus on the broader sweep of “conflict simulations”.

Photo Credit: Tory Brown

The changes have been partly driven by the success and popularity of recent games such as Tory Brown’s Votes for Women, which uses wargame-style mechanics to model the political fight for women’s suffrage in the US.

Votes for Women was nominated for the Best Early Modern Wargame in the 2022 CSR Awards, a couple of months after being named runner up in the Wargame category of BoardGameGeek’s Golden Geek Awards.

Those accolades led to a small but vocal outpouring of ire in internet forums and on the Charles S Roberts website itself, with multiple people questioning Votes for Women’s credentials as a “proper” wargame and describing the award nominations overall as a “joke”.

Responding to one of those comments at the time, CSR Awards director Gary Mengle said, “In reviewing past awards, we saw a pretty large number of games who were either nominated or who won which were considered controversial at the time because some deemed them to be ‘not wargames’ using whatever definition suited them at the time.

“Some of these, like East Front and For the People, seem ludicrous today… but literally last week I saw someone proclaim online that block games, games without hex maps, and [card-driven games] could never possibly be wargames.

“Such a narrow definition of what a wargame is seems incredibly out of touch with the vast majority of people who actually play these types of games.”

Mengle told BoardGameWire, “We assembled an advisory group of hobby notables in the fall of 2023 to workshop some of the challenges that the CSRs have been facing over the last several years.

“The new groupings of categories arose out of those conversations, and are intended mostly as an organizational aid, but this breakdown also lets us modify guidelines not just by individual category, but by group as well, as the need arises.

“Periods are specific topics, while Modes are the ways in which a designer might approach those topics. We did, additionally, add several categories, in particular one for Best Political, Social, or Economic Game.

“This addition, to reflect the realities of the changing space of conflict simulations, was frankly overdue, but we had urgent process issues that we felt needed to be addressed first. We may well tweak the category list in future years, but we feel it’s probably very close to where we want it.

“We are very pleased with the slate of nominees this year. We do, however, see some places where our procedures can be improved, and the CSR team will be discussing those this year with an eye toward implementation next year.

“No process is perfect, and there are definitely solid games that unfortunately did not make it onto the slate, but we are actively trying to improve every year in a deliverable way.”

Speaking to BoardGameWire, Votes for Women designer Tory Brown said, “I was honored to be nominated for a Charles S Roberts award last year, and I’m grateful to everyone who voted for Votes for Women.

“It’s clear the organizers are working hard to not just reflect the community’s priorities, but also to reflect the hobby’s evolution and the ever widening reach of wargames into diverse topics by diverse designers.

“We can cast off the shackles of narrow definitions and the reward will be more games we love about topics and stories we know little about. Truly a win for us all.”

The ballot for this year’s awards is open until midnight EST on May 13 – anyone interested in voting on their favourite games in the categories can do so through this Google Form.

This year’s full slate of nominations are:

Period Awards
Awards for the best game released in calendar year 2023 within a specific historical period. A
given game can be eligible in only one of these categories.

Best Ancients Game
For a game set in the ancient period, including late antiquity, in the period roughly
from deep antiquity through 800 CE.

  • Ancient Civilizations of the Middle East, GMT Games. Designed by Mark McLaughlin
    and Chris Vorder Bruegge.
  • Kings of Rome, Acies Edizioni. Designed by Enrico Acerbi and Andrea Magno.
  • Onus! Traianus, Draco Ideas. Designed by Luis Álvaro Hernández.
  • Storm over Jerusalem, Multi-Man Publishing. Designed by Scott Blanton.

Best Medieval Game
For a game set in the medieval period, before the decisive use of gunpower, in the
period roughly 800-1500 CE.

  • Carolingian Twilight, Decision Games. Designed by Brendan Whyte.
  • Inferno: Guelphs and Ghibellines, GMT Games. Designed by Enrico Acerbi and Volko
    Ruhnke.
  • Le Fléau de Martina, Cérigo Editions/Vae Victis. Designed by Jason Juneau.
  • Plantagenet: Cousins’ War for England, GMT Games. Designed by Francisco
    Gradaille.

Best Gunpowder or Industrial Era Game
For a game set after the decisive use of gunpowder weapons through the age of
industrial warfare, including the Renaissance, Age of Reason, American
Revolution, and other topics prior to the start of World War II. Napoleonic,
American Civil War, World War I, and World War II topics are excluded.

  • 1562: The Beginning of a Tragedy, Serious Historical Games. Designed by Philippe
    Hardy.
  • 1812! War on the Great Lakes Frontier, Compass Games. Designed by Ken Repel.
  • 1854: The Alma, Conflict Simulations, LLC. Designed by Ray Weiss.
  • The Battle of White Plains, GMT Games. Designed by Mark Miklos.
  • El Gran Capitán: Campaign of the Italian Wars, Europa Simulazioni. Designed by
    Nicola Contardi.
  • Siege of Tenochtitlan, The Historical Game Company, LLC. Designed by Steve Kling.

Best Napoleonic Game
For a game set in the period 1789-1815, and treating topics related to the French
Revolution or Napoleonic Wars.

  • Battle of Wagram, The Historical Game Company. Designed by Steve Kling.
  • Bonaparte Overruns Piedmont, Operational Studies Group. Designed by Kevin
    Zucker.
  • Napoleon’s Conquests, Fellowship of Simulations. Designed by Bruno Lamotte.
  • Napoleon’s Eagles 2: The Hundred Days, Compass Games. Designed by Christopher
    Moeller.
  • Vive l’Empereur, White Dog Games/Blue Panther Games. Designed by Hermann
    Luttmann.

Best American Civil War Game
For a game set during the American Civil War or dealing with its immediate causes
or aftermath.

  • Gettysburg, Multi-Man Publishing. Designed by Scott Muldoon.
  • Grand Havoc: Perryville 1862, Revolution Games. Designed by Jeff Grossman.
  • The Seven Days Battles, Worthington Publishing. Designed by Grant Wylie and Mark
    Wylie.

Best World War I Game
For a game treating World War I or related conflicts, in the period 1914-1919.

  • The Cruelest Month, Against the Odds. Designed by Paul Rohrbaugh.
  • Eagles in the Sky, Revolution Games. Designed by Mike Lemick.
  • Inferno sull’Isonzo, Bainsizza 1917, Aleph Game Studio. Designed by Andrea Brusati.
  • The World Undone: Serbia, Conflict Simulations, LLC. Designed by Ray Weiss.
  • Western Front Ace, Compass Games. Designed by Gregory M. Smith and Ian Cooper.

Best World War II Game
For a game treating World War II or related conflicts, in the period 1937-1945.

  • Carrier Battle: Philippine Sea, Compass Games. Designed by Jon Southard.
  • Crimea: Conquest & Liberation, Multi-Man Publishing, Designed by Guy Wilde and
    Antony Birkett.
  • Downfall: Conquest of the Third Reich, GMT Games. Designed by Chad Jensen and
    John Butterfield.
  • Heroes of the Bitter Harvest, Lock n’ Load Publishing. Designed by Devin Heinle.
  • The Hunt, Salt & Pepper Games. Designed by Matthias Cramer and Engin Cramer.
  • Undaunted: Battle of Britain, Osprey Games. Designed by Trevor Benjamin and David
    Thompson.

Best Modern Game
For a conflict simulation dealing with a post-World War II, post-1945, Cold War
(including the Korean and Vietnam conflicts), or Post-Cold War topic, up to the
modern day.

  • The British Way, GMT Games. Designed by Stephen Rangazas.
  • The MOG: Mogadishu 1993, White Dog Games. Designed by David Kershaw.
  • That Others May Live, Hollandspiele. Designed by Brad Smith.
  • Valley of Tears, Multi-Man Publishing. Designed by Carl Fung.
  • Warfare: Modern Tactical Combat, WBS Games. Designed by Carlo Amaddeo and
    Paolo Ciarlo.
  • We Are Coming, Nineveh, Nuts! Publishing. Designed by Juliette Le Ménahèze,
    Harrison Brewer, Rex Brynen, and Brian Train.


Mode Awards

Awards for the best game released in calendar year 2023 using a specific mechanical or design
mode.

Best Strategic Game
For the best strategic-level treatment of a conflict. In general, a strategic game will model the
whole of a conflict, possibly (but not necessarily) also including related concurrent or near-
concurrent conflicts. Such a game may model military, political, social, and/or economic factors
within the confines of the conflict that is its topic.

  • The British Way, GMT Games. Designed by Stephen Rangazas.
  • Downfall: Conquest of the Third Reich, GMT Games. Designed by Chad Jensen and
    John Butterfield.
  • Europa Universalis: The Price of Power, Aegir Games. Designed by Eivind Vetlesen.
  • Global War – World War II Worldwide, White Dog Games. Designed by Wes Erni and
    Ben Madison.
  • Land and Freedom, Blue Panther. Designed by Alex Knight.

Best Operational Game
For the best treatment of a military campaign from an operational perspective. Operational, in
this sense, is concerned with the planning and execution of campaigns. Such games often
feature an emphasis on logistics, supply or other tempo-affecting constraints on the conduct of a
campaign.

  • Crimea: Conquest & Liberation, Multi-Man Publishing, Designed by Guy Wilde and
    Antony Birkett.
  • Inferno: Guelphs and Ghibellines Vie for Tuscany, GMT Games. Designed by Enrico
    Acerbi and Volko Ruhnke.
  • Littoral Commander: Indo-Pacific, Dietz Foundation. Designed by Sebastian Bae.
  • Plantagenet: Cousins’ War for England, GMT Games. Designed by Francisco
    Gradaille.
  • Red Strike, VUCA Simulations. Designed by Yves Rettel.

Best Tactical Game
For the best treatment of a battle or battles from a tactical perspective. Tactical
games focus on specific battles or engagements and usually model small-unit
firepower, equipment, and maneuver, but “small-unit” varies by period and topic.

  • The Battle of White Plains, GMT Games. Designed by Mark Miklos.
  • Bonaparte Overruns Piedmont, Operational Studies Group. Designed by Kevin
    Zucker.
  • Heroes of the Bitter Harvest, Lock n’ Load Publishing. Designed by Devin Heinle.
  • The MOG: Mogadishu 1993, White Dog Games. Designed by David Kershaw.
  • We Are Coming, Nineveh, Nuts! Publishing. Designed by Juliette Le Ménahèze,
    Harrison Brewer, Rex Brynen, and Brian Train.

Best New Edition of a Previously Published Game
For the best revised or updated edition of an otherwise CSR-eligible game
published in a previous Awards Year. To be eligible, the new edition must be a
substantial revision or upgrade of the original, including but not limited to
additional content, updated graphics, or rules revisions. Reprints are not eligible
for this category for mere errata correction.

  • Axis Empires: Ultimate Edition, Decision Games. Designed by Thomas Prowell.
  • Cruel Necessity: The English Civil Wars, Worthington Publishing. Designed by John
    Welch.
  • On to Richmond II: The Union Strikes South, Multi-Man Publishing. Designed by
    Joseph Balkoski, Ed Beach and Chris Withers.
  • Radetzky’s March: The Road to Novara, Dissimula Edizioni. Designed by Sergio
    Schiavi.
  • The Russian Campaign: Deluxe 5th Edition, GMT Games. Designed by John
    Edwards.
  • Task Force: Carrier Battles in the Pacific, VUCA Simulations. Designed by Ginichiro
    Suzuki.
  • Traces of War, VUCA Simulations. Designed by Tetsuya Nakamura.

Best Political, Social, or Economic Game
For the best historical conflict simulation dealing primarily with a non-military
conflict or a conflict primarily waged, within the bounds of the game, by non-
military means.

  • Border Reivers, GMT Games. Designed by Ed Beach.
  • Europa Universalis: The Price of Power, Aegir Games. Designed by Eivind Vetlesen.
  • Mr. President, GMT Games. Designed by Gene Billingsley.
  • Sleepwalkers: Imperial Rivalries and the Great War, Dr. Richter Konfliktsimulationen.
    Designed by Benjamin Richter.
  • Weimar: The Fight for Democracy, Capstone/Spielworxxx. Designed by Matthias
    Cramer.

Best Solitaire or Cooperative Game
For a conflict simulation designed to be played primarily in a solitaire or
cooperative mode.

  • A Glorious Chance, Legion Wargames. Designed by Gina Willis.
  • Global War – World War II Worldwide, White Dog Games. Designed by Wes Erni and
    Ben Madison.
  • Halls of Hegra, Tompet Games. Designed by Petter Schanke Olsen.
  • Vive l’Empereur, White Dog Games/Blue Panther Games. Designed by Hermann
    Luttmann.

Best Hypothetical Game
For a conflict simulation with a topic that is contrafactual, contra-historical,
alternate history or hypothetical, set in any period.

  • Littoral Commander: Indo-Pacific, Dietz Foundation. Designed by Sebastian Bae.
  • Red Strike, VUCA Simulations. Designed by Yves Rettel.
  • The Doomsday Project: Episode 2 – The Battle for the Balkans, Compass Games.
    Designed by Adam Starkweather.

Best Wargaming Magazine
For the best wargaming magazine containing coverage of wargaming, or otherwise specifically
relevant to a wargame or wargames. This award is to recognize the quality of the magazine,
and any included wargames should be judged separately in their appropriate categories.

  • Against the Odds
  • Banzai
  • C3i
  • Game Journal
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • War Diary

Capstone Awards

Singular Awards for individual or achievement granted annually by the Charles S. Roberts
Awards.

The Redmond A. Simonsen Memorial Award for Outstanding
Presentation
For the game exhibiting excellence in all aspects of presentation, including the quality of the
rules, packaging, art, components, physical systems design, playing surface, and visual
interface.

  • Fighters of the Pacific, Capsicum Games/Don’t Panic Games. Artists Alexandre
    Bonvalot and Antoine Schindler.
  • Freezing Inferno, Princeps Games/Giga Mech Games. Artists Jelena Pjevic and
    Wojciech Zalewski.
  • Red Strike, VUCA Simulations. Artist Pablo Bazerque.
  • Undaunted: Battle of Britain, Osprey Games. Artist Roland MacDonald.

The James F. Dunnigan Award for Playability and Design
For the designer who has, through excellence of design, had the most positive
impact on playability and elegance in the field of conflict simulations.

  • Mike Denson
  • Hermann Luttmann
  • Mark Simonitch
  • Jeremy White

The Chad Jensen Memorial Breakthrough Designer Award
For a new designer or design team whose first or second game was released in the
Awards Year, who best exemplifies emerging excellence in design, and who has not
previously received this Award.

  • Antony Birkett, designer of Battles in the East Vols. 1-2, co-designer of Crimea:
    Conquest & Liberation.
  • Harrison Brewer & Juliette Le Ménahèze, co-designers of We Are Coming, Nineveh.
  • Alex Knight, designer of Land & Freedom.
  • Yves Rettel, designer of Red Strike.
  • Gina Willis, Designer of A Glorious Chance.

The Charles S. Roberts Game of the Year
For the game that best exhibits the highest standards of excellence in design and
execution.

  • The British Way, GMT Games. Designed by Stephen Rangazas.
  • Downfall: Conquest of the Third Reich, GMT Games. Designed by Chad Jensen and
    John Butterfield.
  • Europa Universalis: The Price of Power, Aegir Games. Designed by Eivind Vetlesen.
  • Plantagenet: Cousins’ War for England, GMT Games. Designed by Francisco
    Gradaille.
  • Mr. President, GMT Games. Designed by Gene Billingsley.
  • Valley of Tears, Multi-Man Publishing. Designed by Carl Fung.
  • We Are Coming, Nineveh, Nuts! Publishing. Designed by Juliette Le Ménahèze, Harrison Brewer, Rex Brynen, and Brian Train.

One comment

  1. Ridiculous. And tooting their own horn. A wargame is a game involving military conflict. Boradening this definition serves no purpose other than try and get awards for games that wouldn’t get them otherwise.

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